Tick, tick, tick. Time running out on Illinois.
March Madness lasted all of one day for Illinois basketball.
There's still a chance for some magic at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis next week, but until the Illini string together more than one win, their NCAA Tournament hopes are already 6 feet under.
Guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined for 46 points to lead No. 12 Michigan to a 72-61 victory in Illinois' final home game of the regular season and likely the last game on the sidelines in Assembly Hall for embattled Illini coach Bruce Weber. The Illini lost to Michigan here for the first time since 1995.
"Nothing has changed,'' Weber said. "If you have any chance for the NCAA, you've got to win games. You've got to go to Wisconsin and win some games in the Big Ten Tournament to give yourself a chance. If you win at Wisconsin -- it's not going to be easy -- and win a game or so, it gives you a chance. Whatever win we get now is a pretty good win.
"All we have is ourselves. We've got to believe in each other. I used the Cardinals. How many times in the last week did you not think the Cardinals would get in the playoffs? They ended up winning the thing. A lot of things can happen.''
With a sweep of Michigan and No. 14 Wisconsin this week, the Illini would have climbed back on the bubble for the NCAAs. That would have been five wins against the top 25, perhaps overcoming a six-game losing streak and losses to Nebraska and Penn State.
But this loss doomed the Illini, who fell to 17-13 overall and 6-11 in the Big Ten. Illinois plays at Wisconsin Sunday (noon, BTN). A run in Indy could revive the Madness.
The Illini reached the Big Ten title game in 2008 as a No. 10 seed and a No. 11 seed in 1999. The Illini are locked into the game pitting the No. 8 and 9 seeds at the conference tournament next Thursday, facing the loser of the Northwestern-Iowa game Saturday. Thus, Illinois would face top-seeded Michigan State in the quarterfinals if there's a first-round win.
Do the Illini have anything left in the for a big run?
"After Sunday, I thought we did,'' Weber said. "We really played hard against Iowa. We had great body language. I just don't think we played hard, especially on the defensive end.''
Prior to the game against Michigan, CBS bracketologist Jerry Palm hadn't counted out the Illini earlier in the day.
"If they win these two this week, ask me about it again,'' Palm said.
Michigan broke the game open with 9-0 run for a 55-44 lead, so there's no need to return the call to Palm.
"If we would have grabbed this one, it would have given us a lot better chance,'' Illini center Meyers Leonard said. "I don't know why everyone looks at us as not capable of doing it.''
Leonard had a surprise during the afternoon shootaround -- a visit with his brother, Bailey, who had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines -- but Leonard wasn't dominant despite 18 points and nine rebounds against a sagging Michigan defense.
Guard Brandon Paul had 15 points on 4 of 11 shooting with six rebounds. Guard Tracy Abrams had 12 points. No other Illini scored more than six.
Michigan (22-8, 12-5) climbed into a second-place tie in the Big Ten after bouncing back from a 14-point loss at home to Purdue Saturday.
"With how it knocked us back, I was worried about confidence,'' Michigan coach John Beilein said.
Hardaway scored 25 points on 6 of 7 shooting, including a 4 of 4 night from the 3-point line. He had 16 points in the second half.
"Does he carry the team? No,'' Beilein said. "It enhances our ability to win against very good teams.''Burke looked like a first-team all-Big Ten pick. The freshman scored 21 points, including 14 in the first half, and also had five assists. John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie. Illinois report card Front court -- B- Meyers Leonard scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He wasn't dominant against a sagging Michigan defense, and the Illini didn't make Wolverines pay for playing small ball. Back court -- D- With some bad shooting (10 of 29) and bad defense, this is really where the Illini gave away the game. Burke was a problem in the first half, then Hardaway became the issue after halftime. Bench -- F We've been over this before. Overall -- D There was something from Leonard, but it wasn't enough. And what happened to the defense that looked so good against Iowa? Oh, Michigan is tougher to guard.